Agroecology 2 min

Crop diversification: a key to agriculture that is less dependent on pesticides

PRESS RELEASE - A major breakthrough has been unveiled in Nature Communications, revealing the results of an in-depth study on the beneficial effect of temporal crop diversification in reducing pesticide use in France. These results, based on a detailed analysis of more than 14,000 observations, pave the way for an in-depth understanding of the links between temporal crop diversity and dependence on pesticides, be they fungicides, insecticides or herbicides.

Published on 27 November 2023

illustration Crop diversification: a key to agriculture that is less dependent on pesticides
© INRAE - Brigitte Cauvin

Crop diversification is emerging as a cornerstone in the transition to sustainable agriculture. Researchers from INRAE and the Institut Agro Dijon have examined the link between the diversity of crop sequences in arable field crops and pesticide use across a very wide range of farming systems and climatic contexts. A relationship little explored to date at this scale.

Their results, based on an analysis of 14,556 observations of a given crop a given year, in 1,334 cropping systems in France, reveal that temporal crop diversification significantly reduces pesticide use for most crops. This analysis was carried out for total pesticide use, as well as by type of pesticide (fungicide, insecticide, herbicide), for the 16 main crops in France.

For example, increasing the number of botanical families (e.g. Poaceae such as cereals, Fabaceae such as legumes and Brassicaceae such as crucifers) from 1 to 4 reduces pesticide use by 19% to 23% for crops such as soybean, beetroot, sunflower and maize. Increasing average number of crops per botanical family reduced pesticide use by a further 14% to 37% for maize, winter pea, oilseed rape and potatoes. On the other hand, these effects are more nuanced for straw cereals, for which no specific effect of diversity was observed. Interestingly, the study also suggests that cover cropping does not contribute to a reduction in the use of pesticides, but rather to an increase in the use of herbicides.

The researchers highlight the importance of adopting a holistic quantification of diversity, taking into account the diversity of botanical families and intra-family diversity (e.g. wheat, barley, oats, rye for cereals; spring pea, faba bean, lupins and lentils for legumes), in order to guide agricultural practices towards a significant reduction in pesticide dependency.

These results mark a crucial stage in the search for more sustainable farming systems, highlighting the essential role of crop diversity in reducing pesticide use.


The study is based on 14,556 crop management sequences in 1,334 cropping systems of the DEPHY farm network, spread across the whole of mainland France, and described during the period 2010-2022. The study therefore makes the most of the wide diversity of farming practices observed in the network, depending on the region, the year and also the individual strategies of each farmer. The pesticide use indicator selected is the treatment frequency index (TFI), which takes into account the number of treatments, the doses applied and the proportions of surface area treated. The diversity of crop sequences in each cropping system is characterised by the diversity of botanical families and intra-family diversity.


Guinet M., Adeux G., Cordeau S. et al. (2023). Fostering temporal crop diversication to reduce pesticide use. Nature Communications 14:7416,


INRAE Press Office

scientific contacts

Maé Guinet researcher at Institut Agro DijonAgroecology joint research unit

Guillaume Adeux INRAE RESEARCHERAgroecology joint research unit



Learn more


On-Farm Experimentation: a global movement to accelerate the transformation of agriculture

PRESS RELEASE - A new generation of on-farm experimental activities, co-created with farmers, is opening up alternative innovation pathways in agriculture. An international team of researchers from 9 countries (Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, France, Malaysia, Morocco, the United Kingdom and the United States) has been formed to establish the fundamental principles of the OFE (On-Farm Experimentation) movement and to make the case for its formal recognition and support. The team, whose members in France include INRAE and the #DigitAg Institute, published its conclusions this December in Nature Food. The team demonstrate that the OFE collaborative learning model, which is gaining global momentum, could boost the agroecological and digital transitions in agriculture.

21 December 2021


H2020 IPMWorks: reducing pesticide use by building a European farm network based on the French DEPHY model

PRESS RELEASE - Reducing pesticide use 50% by 2030 is the goal of the European Union's Green Deal and Farm to Fork strategy. Throughout Europe, agricultural policies have prioritised engaging with farmers, whose commitment is essential in the quest to change agricultural practices. Drawing upon the experiences of the French farm network DEPHY, the H2020 IPMWORKS project will build a European farm network with a two-fold objective: to demonstrate integrated pest management (IPM) strategies, which use small quantities of pesticides, and to promote the adoption of such strategies via knowledge exchange and peer-to-peer learning among farmers. IPMWORKS was officially launched in the autumn of 2020 and will run for a period of 4 years. The project is coordinated by INRAE and has brought together 31 partners in 16 European countries. These partners include ACTA, the network of French agricultural technical institutes, and APCA, the assembly of French chambers of agriculture.

20 November 2020


Reducing pesticide use in agriculture without lowering productivity

PRESS RELEASE - As part of the DEPHY-Ferme network, a major component of the French government’s EcoPhyto plan to reduce and improve plant protection product use, researchers from INRAE working with the company Agrosolutions examined the relationship between pesticide use and cropping system performances in terms of productivity and profitability. The results, published in Nature Plants on 27 February 2017, show that pesticide use can be significantly reduced without lowering yields or economic performances at farm level if substantial changes in farming practices are adopted. However, implementing new practices is not necessarily easy and farmers need guidance in doing so.

12 February 2020